Health Care Happening: Paul Krugman Blog Post

Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, posted this very good news today on his blog, “The Conscience of a Liberal:”

OK, it looks as if major health care reform is actually going to happen. Democrats have agreed that if Republicans try to block reform in the Senate, they will use the reconciliation process to bypass a filibuster.

Republicans will, of course, scream that this is a terrible, terrible thing – something they themselves would never have done – except, of course, to cut food stamps, pass both major Bush tax cuts, and more.

We’ll still have to see what the reform looks like – especially whether the public plan survives. But kudos to the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership: this is the big one, and so far it looks very, very good.

Here is my reply to Paul:

This is extremely good news for the growing millions who have no health insurance.  I have written to Sen. Baucus several times urging him to move his plan forward.  The Republicans will of course blow tons of steam in outrage and consternation, but the historical opportunity to create a health care system that essentially establishes a right to medical care has to be made law.

And here is the Great Irony:  Every single Republican who objects to the legislation will now be covered by the new national plans.  Every Republican who has lost his or her job because of the Recession and now has no health insurance or is working but can’t afford it will be covered.  Every Republican who has been denied treatment due to pre-existing conditions will be treated.  Every Republican will have access to all the medical services and programs provided by the new system.  Every Republican will benefit from the elimination of billions, dare we say trillions, of dollars, of waste currently generated by the current non-system.

Even Rush Limbaugh, despite his vitriolic howling objections, will be covered.

Once the legislation is passed, how many Republicans will stand on principle and refuse to participate?  Can we speculate they will overnight become the “Party of Yes?”

Let’s get this health care legislation passed.

And, I want to add: Go, Max, go!

Go Max Go! Sen. Baucus’ Health Plan for Universal Coverage

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has recently announced that he is moving to sponsor legislation that would create a universal health care program for all Americans.  And to get it implemented within a year!  Thank you, Senator!  Although the full text of the proposal has not been released, here is the statement presented on his website (http://baucus.senate.gov/issues/healthcare.cfm):

Health Care

Quality, Affordable Health Insurance for All

Our health care system is in trouble: costs are rising at an unsustainable rate, too many Americans are uninsured, and quality of care isn’t up to par. High costs are making it increasingly difficult for Montana’s families and businesses to afford comprehensive health insurance, which means that Montana’s rate of uninsured is growing rapidly.  Although the United States spends twice as much on health care as any other country, we clearly don’t have twice as much health care.

Charting a Course for Health Care Reform

So how do we fix our health care system?  I see five broad principles of reform. As Chairman of the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over the major public health insurance programs, I have begun a series of hearings to explore each principle in greater depth. By having an open and honest dialogue, I am confident that we can build momentum, find consensus, and bring about reform.

Universal Coverage: The first principle is universal coverage, every Montanan and American has a right to affordable health coverage. Universal coverage is essential if we are to make meaningful progress on the other four principles. We cannot address the health care system, if we leave a growing portion of the country behind. The solution, however, must build on the current system and must involve a public and private sector mix.

Sharing the Burden: The second principle is sharing the burden. Neither the employer-based system nor the individual market can fulfill the demand for affordable, portable, quality coverage. One way to ensure affordable coverage is to create “pooling” arrangements, which allow individuals and businesses alike to take advantage of their collective purchasing power and save in administrative costs.

Controlling Costs: The third principle is controlling costs. Health care costs are rising at four times the rate of inflation. America cannot sustain its current rate of growth in health care spending. Any serious proposal must slow the rate of growth of health care costs. Our economy and nation’s competitiveness depend upon it.

Prevention: The fourth principle is prevention. American health care tends to address what happens when you are sick. By making prevention the foundation of our health care system, we can spare patients needless suffering. We can avoid the high costs of treating an illness that has been allowed to progress.

Shared Responsibility: The fifth principle is shared responsibility. We want universal coverage. But the question is: Who will bear the burden of a new system? In my view, everybody must shoulder the burden together. Health coverage is a shared responsibility and all should contribute. That means individuals, employers and the government.

I believe we can reduce the number of the uninsured by building on existing programs, and we must protect and strengthen these programs as we work towards broader reform.

Sen Baucus’ plan closely follows the principles I endorse that have been articulated by the Catholic Health Association (see my blog posted 4 Nov ’08 ).  My one suggestion to him is that “Prevention” necessarily needs to be priority #2, because, as I have explained in earlier posts, clear goals for prevention provides a foundation on which costs have to be based.  I’m aware that Business believes that costs must be addressed first, but based on my theoretical assessment, that approach will not work.

Thanks, Max.  We look forward to seeing the full text of your proposal very soon!